Canvas Tent Maintenance

How to clean, waterproof and store a canvas tent

Posted on: August 27, 2020
By: Heather Rae Petersen
Canvas Tent Maintenance

Photo by CanvasCamp

Looking for a few tips and tricks on how to care for your tent? Learn how to take care of your tent when you first purchase it, how to store it and what to do every 3-6 months to maintain the best performance possible for your tent.

Canvas Tent Storage

Tent Storage

Mold, mice, and mites are the biggest threats to tents in storage. Follow our tent storage guidelines below to protect your tent when you’re not using it.

Never pack your tent wet! EVER!

Your tent, groundsheet and guy lines must be completely dry before you put it in the bag. If you must take down camp while damp, loosely fold up the tent for transport and then lay it out to dry within 24 hours. If outdoor drying isn’t a possibility, bring it inside to dry before packing it up.

Pack your tent clean

Vegetation and dirt hold moisture which will grow mold. Sweep or wipe down the tent inside and out before packing it up. Check out our video on how to pack up a Sibley Tent in the field to see the taco, pizza, french fry, roll method of folding in action.

Store it High and Dry

Keep your packed tent in a cool, dry place and avoid storage in damp basements. Keep the tent off the floor in garages and storage units that can flood or puddle in the rain.

Long Term Storage

If you're storing your tent for a long period, or in an area where mice and bugs are a concern, consider storing the tent in a big clean plastic garbage can with a lid.

Canvas Tent Cleaning

Cleaning a Tent

Cleaning and re-treating your tent regularly improves the life of your tent and is a necessary component of maintenance. Environmental factors such as humidity, UV exposure, airborne particles from vegetation and mold spores can vary drastically in different locations. CanvasCamp recommends cleaning and retreating your tent after 3-6 months of use, however, depending on your environment you may need to clean it more or less often. Always spot clean and retreat problem areas as needed.

It is important to address any mold and mildew immediately to kill the spores and prevent it from spreading. Once canvas has mold, it is almost impossible to remove the stains. Check out our blog on How to Clean Mold from Canvas Tents for mold specific information.

How to Clean a Canvas Tent

Cleaning prepares your tent for retreatment. Dry mud or dirt can be brushed off with a soft brush. You will need a hose, bucket, soft brush or sponge, cleaning solution and retreatment solution.

  • Mix a 4 part water 1 part vinegar solution to kill mold and/or use a canvas specific cleaning product of your choice.
  • Unroll your tent, peg down the groundsheet and remove all dust, dirt, and particulate with a clean broom or a vacuum with a brush attachment.
  • Hose down the tent.
  • Use a soft brush or sponge to gently clean the fabric with the appropriate solution, rinsing as you go. Start at the peak and work your way down to the floor. It may be helpful to pitch the tent after you’ve cleaned the hard to reach areas around the top.
  • Rinse. Then rinse again. Making sure to remove any residual cleaning solution.
  • Let the tent dry completely prior to retreating.

Canvas Tent Waterproofing Treatment

(Re) Waterproofing

You must retreat the canvas after a cleaning to maintain water, mold, and UV resistance. Most solutions are marketed as a waterproofing treatment, however, they provide protection against sun and dirt as well, which can degrade fabric and limit the natural waterproofing ability of a quality canvas weave. You can use a variety of different treatments depending on your personal preference. Explore our favorite tent care products for recommendations.

How to Retreat a Canvas Tent

  • Make sure the canvas is dry and clean.
  • Apply the retreatment product liberally using a spray, plant sprayer, or paint roller. Follow the recommended application instructions from the manufacturer of the product you are using.
  • Let dry completely prior to storage. Repeat if necessary.

Pre Shrinking Canvas Tent

Pre-Shrinking a New Canvas Tent

Canvas tents are like a pair of denim jeans; they shrink a little when you wash them. Shrinkage is beneficial for new tents. When the cotton fibers shrink, the weave tightens which increases its water resistance capabilities. A brand new canvas tent when taken into the rain for the first time may "mist" in a driving rain; this is normal. When you first receive your tent - set it up in the backyard and hose it down, (or leave it up until it gets rained on) to pre-shrink your tent before your first adventure!

Moldy Canvas Tent

Maintaining your canvas tent by cleaning, waterproofing, and storing it properly will keep your gear in use for years. For more in depth information on how to deep clean a moldy canvas tent check out our blog.